ST. LOUIS — Ryan Franklin has found his comfort zone.
After working most of his first five seasons as a starter with Seattle, the right-hander spent last season with Philadelphia and Cincinnati as a reliever. Both the Phillies and the Reds bounced him around in various roles and he said he never felt settled with either team.
When the 34-year-old signed with St. Louis during the offseason, his role with the Cardinals was clear. Franklin comes into games almost exclusively to hold a St. Louis lead and set up closer Jason Isringhausen.
“I’m starting to feel more comfortable in the role I’m in,” he said. “It’s helping whenever I know when I’m going to pitch.
“Last year, I bounced around in different roles and it’s hard to get comfortable with that. I just feel real comfortable here.”
A year after finishing with a 4.54 ERA over 77 1-3 innings in 66 appearances, Franklin is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in 28 2-3 innings with St. Louis. He has blown two save opportunities but didn’t allow a run in 21 appearances, and gave up just one in all of May.
Manager Tony La Russa said Franklin has done exactly what the Cardinals expected
“He’s been terrific,” La Russa said. “He’s got a good assortment of pitches. He enjoys the role. He’s been a real plus.”
In his final three seasons in Seattle, Franklin had only two relief appearances. That has fueled speculation he might become the latest reliever-turned-starter for St. Louis. Already this season, the Cardinals have made the switch for Braden Looper, Adam Wainwright, Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer.
Despite the recent signing of former All-Star reliever Troy Percival, La Russa said there are no plans to move Franklin into the starter role.
“The only way Franklin is ever going to be considered is if we’ve got absolutely no other options,” La Russa said. “You’ve got a guy who’s doing a real good job in a very important role. We’re going to try not to mess with him.”
Franklin would like nothing more than to stay where he is.
“I’d rather not bounce around back and forth,” he said. “That’s where you get out of sync.”
Keeping things simple has worked well for Franklin this season. He knows when he’s coming into the game and he knows what pitches he’s going to throw.
Before this season, he often let his assortment of pitches get him into trouble as his competitive nature took over. Instead of sticking with what he’s good at, he tried to use whatever it took to get the out.
Pitching coach Dave Duncan has essentially limited Franklin’s choices. Depending if Franklin’s facing a left-hander or a right-hander, he has no more than three options.
“That’s the main thing, is having confidence in your stuff,” Franklin said.